Last year a family in Italy thought they had created an ideal arrangement. They "adopted" an older man who was looking for a family, hoping to bless him and provide a grandfather for their children.
News of this event inspired people worldwide to think about the value of extended families and the good that can come when we reach out to others with love.
The story, however, ended unhappily when the grandfather turned out to be a con artist whose actions have dashed the family's best intentions and hopes (see "Senior 'adoption' sours in Italy," The Christian Science Monitor, June 22).
When I read the original story, I was struck by how basic the yearning for family is. The Italian family's experiment was prompted by something we can all relate to - the desire to be nurtured by a caring father and mother and to regard one another with mutual concern and affection.
As I thought about this, I remembered this statement from the first page of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."
Though it may seem as though a right desire was betrayed by unfortunate circumstances, the hope of a deeper and more fulfilling experience of family remains a precious thing - one that is ultimately met by the love of God.
I learned something about this when my father passed on. I felt his absence very keenly. Each time I thought of him, I was pained at the idea that I could no longer see him, hear his voice, or speak to him. I began to notice that while I could find comfort in gratitude for all that we'd had together, the thought that my daughter would miss these things was something that consistently reduced me to tears.
At the age of 18 months she felt his absence, and I searched for a way to comfort her. When she asked where "Da" was, I explained that even though we couldn't be with him as we used to, his love and good qualities were not lost, and that because they were from God's own goodness, we would see them in other places and other ways. I didn't know how much of this she understood, but she stopped calling and crying for him.
A month or so later, we were at a Christmas celebration at a local museum where a man was playing Santa Claus. My daughter seemed fascinated by him, and we sat in the corner of the room and watched as he greeted and spoke to the children who came in. After about 20 minutes of silently observing, my daughter turned to me and whispered, "There's Da."
It was clear that she was responding to the patience and gentleness the man expressed, the way he really listened to the children - something I know she had especially liked about her grandfather. It brought home to me the practicality of God's spiritual provision for our family; we could keep finding what we needed.
My dad's goodness was a reflection of God's nature, essentially spiritual and therefore always present. Understanding the blessings of family as God's gifts to us all, I began to see that my daughter's need for a grandfather would be met by divine Love.
After that day, I trusted more that God would meet my family's needs. Over the years, my daughter has had the loving attention of various "grandfathers," who shared with her the very qualities and gifts that I associate with my dad. Sometimes these were relatives or family friends, and there were also occasions when a stranger would unexpectedly have the right thought or word to help.
The things we treasure in our family relationships are really spiritual - never outside ourselves or distant, and never subject to loss or destruction. Our desire to see more support, kindness, and caring for ourselves and our families is a prayer that does not go unanswered but impels us to look more deeply into where good comes from and how best to find it. Turning to God as the source of good shows us how broad and wide divine Love is and that, as promised in the Bible, "God setteth the solitary in families" (Ps. 68:6) - in ways that are just right and a blessing to all concerned.